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Patriots 2022 offseason preview: New England remains in good shape along its interior offensive line

Related: Patriots 2022 offseason preview: New England’s offensive tackle group faces some uncertainty

NFL: NOV 28 Titans at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Only two teams are left standing in the NFL postseason tournament, but the New England Patriots are not among them. They are already in the process of turning their attention towards what lies ahead: the offseason has arrived at Gillette Stadium after their wild card playoff loss in Buffalo.

It projects to be an interesting one for the Patriots. The team did go 10-7 in the regular season and returned to the playoffs, but it does face plenty of questions after its late-season collapse and with numerous starters in all three phases headed towards free agency. With that in mind, let’s break down where the Patriots stand at this point in time one position at a time.

Today, we continue along the interior offensive line.

David Andrews

Age: 29

Experience: 7

Contract status: Under contract through the 2024 season. Andrews has a salary cap hit of $6.38 million in 2022.

2021 review: For Andrews, the 2021 league year started with him entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. While it appeared his Patriots tenure might have come to an end — he was rumored to join Miami — the team eventually did bring him back on a four-year contract with a maximum value of $19 million.

The season itself was business as usual for New England’s starting center. Starting all 18 of the team’s games, he was a key member of one of the best offensive lines in the league. While the unit did have some ups and downs, especially early during the year, Andrews was as steady as they come while also serving as a team captain yet again.

2022 preview: Despite his cap impact increasing from $1.73 million in 2021 to $6.38 million in 2022, Andrews is not going anywhere. Not only is a significant portion of his salary — $4 million — guaranteed, he also is still among the better centers in the NFL and plays an important role as New England’s lead communicator up front. His presence also is valuable for the team’s young quarterback, Mac Jones.

Drew Desjarlais

Age: 24

Experience: 0

Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season after signing a reserve/futures pact with the Patriots.

2021 review: After the CFL canceled its 2020 season due to Covid-19, Desjarlais and the rest of the league returned to the field ini 2021. A West Division All-Star who appeared in 16 total games for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and helped them defend their Grey Cup title, he was released from his contract after the season to receive a chance to enter the NFL.

2022 preview: After working him out twice, the Patriots signed Desjarlais to a one-year reserve/futures contract in late January. The 6-foot-2, 315-pound lineman will get an opportunity to compete for a roster spot over the coming months, but should not be expected to become anything more than a backup in his first year in New England.

Obviously, though, the final configuration of the interior O-line — especially in regards to the left tackle spot — will determine where he will end up.

Yasir Durant

Age: 23

Experience: 2

Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season. Durant has a salary cap hit of $895,000 in 2022.

2021 review: Despite appearing in a combined 13 games during his 2020 rookie season, the Kansas City Chiefs opted to trade Durant to the Patriots in early September. The 23-year-old went on to see action in seven games, initially helping replace an injured Trent Brown at right tackle but later also being used at right guard. In total, Durant played 95 offensive snaps in 2021 plus 30 more in the kicking game.

2022 preview: Even though New England invested a draft pick to get Durant aboard last year, he is no lock to make the team’s roster in 2022. His versatility to play both tackle and guard is a plus, but he will have to prove himself against fellow youngsters such as Drew Desjarlais or William Sherman.

Arlington Hambright

Age: 26

Experience: 2

Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season. Hambright has a salary cap hit of $825,000 in 2022.

2021 review: Even after seeing regular action along the Chicago Bears’ interior O-line during the 2021 preseason, Hambright was released on roster cutdown day. He did return via the club’s practice squad, but was not used in any games. Thus far in his career, the former rookie free agent has therefore played only 82 offensive snaps — all of them at left guard.

2022 preview: In order for Hambright to make a name for himself along New England’s interior offensive line, he might have to improve his versatility: he exclusively aligned at left guard during his two years with the Bears, but the Patriots prefer their backups to be able to fill multiple spots. If the 26-year-old can do that, he should have a chance to make either the roster or practice squad in 2022.

Maybe the uncertainty at left guard even opens the door for him to earn a starting spot. It seems unlikely based on his first two seasons in the NFL, but stranger things have happened.

Ted Karras

Age: 28

Experience: 6

Contract status: Set to enter unrestricted free agency on March 16.

2021 review: When it appeared that David Andrews would be lost in free agency, the team acted quickly to bring Karras back into the fold after his one-year stint in Miami. The move made sense: Karras had plenty of experience as a starting offensive lineman and was a well-respected player in the locker room.

With Andrews returning, however, his outlook changed. Karras started the year in a backup capacity before being promoted to the starting lineup in Week 5. He never looked back. Starting at right guard in Weeks 5 and 6, Karras flipped to the left side down the stretch. He ended up starting 12 games at the position and was on the field for a total of 890 offensive snaps throughout his 2021 campaign.

2022 preview: Heading towards unrestricted free agency for a second straight offseason, Karras is no lock to return to the Patriots in 2022. The veteran, after all, has proven himself a capable starter and will likely be looking for the appropriate compensation plus outlook.

It seems the team would welcome him back, but those two questions could become an issue. Of course, Karras could give the Patriots a hometown discount as far as his asking price is concerned — he has spent five of his six NFL seasons in New England and is coming off a year that saw him earn the starting left guard position — but there is no guarantee any of that happens.

Shaq Mason

Age: 28

Experience: 7

Contract status: Under contract through the 2023 season. Cajuste has a salary cap hit of $10.28 million in 2022.

2021 review: Even though he missed a pair of games in October due to an abdominal injury, Mason had a very good season in 2021. In fact, he has a solid case as possibly the most consistent player on the Patriots offense last year. An outstanding run blocker as always, plus a very good pass protector again, Mason had a stellar season. In total, he started 16 of New England’s games and was on the field for 1,016 of a possible 1,169 offensive snaps.

2022 preview: Regardless of his status as the ninth-highest paid guard in the NFL in terms of salary cap hit, Mason is a lock to be on the Patriots’ roster again in 2022. After all, he is an important member of the team’s starting offensive line and one of the best right guards in the game today. Furthermore, Mason provides a level of stability with two of the starting positions up front — left guard and right tackle — facing an uncertain future.

Michael Onwenu

Age: 24

Experience: 2

Contract status: Under contract through the 2023 season. Onwenu has a salary cap hit of $945,617 in 2022.

2021 review: After seeing considerable action at right tackle as a rookie in 2020, the Patriots moved Onwenu to the left guard position in lieu of having lost Joe Thuney in free agency. Onwenu went on to start the first four games of the regular season, but a stint on the Covid-19 reserve list changed his trajectory.

When he returned, Ted Karras had taken over as New England’s left guard. Onwenu did go on to start three more games at right tackle in place of an injured Trent Brown, but was sent to the bench after Brown’s return from IR. Onwenu ended the season seeing occasional action as a sixth blocker up front, but he never returned to the starting lineup. He ended the year having played 657 of a possible 1,169 offensive snaps.

2022 preview: Onwenu is one of the Patriots’ players to watch this offseason. His ability to play both left guard and right tackle could come in handy with the starters at both positions — Karras and Brown — headed for unrestricted free agency. If one or both leave, the third-year man could reenter the starting lineup after losing his top-five position last year.

In case the two of them are retained, there is still a chance Onwenu earns a starting gig after all depending on other factors such as the development of left tackle Isaiah Wynn or a possible competition with Karras. Regardless of what happens, Onwenu is a valuable chess piece to have in the fold, even though he did not end the 2021 season as a starter.

William Sherman

Age: 22

Experience: 1

Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season after signing a reserve/futures pact with the Patriots.

2021 review: The Patriots invested a sixth-round draft pick in Sherman last spring but he was unable to survive roster cutdown day. The Colorado product remained with the team nonetheless, signing with the New England practice squad and staying there throughout his rookie campaign.

Along the way, Sherman was elevated to the game-day roster on one occasion: he played six snaps on the field goal/extra point protection unit in Week 5. The youngster actually saw his most action in preseason, when he aligned at right guard for 47 snaps.

2022 preview: Just like Drew Desjarlais, Yasir Durant and Arlington Hambright, Sherman will compete for a backup spot along New England’s offensive line this year. His versatility and experience in the system are a plus, but it would not be a surprise if he got lost in the competition either.

If he can show some proper development and make the famous second-year jump, however, Sherman might just be able to earn himself a spot on the team or practice squad.